Coronavirus (COVID-19): State governments struggling under the economic weight of lockdown are upset that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while announcing extension of lockdown till May 3, didn’t spell out urgent measures to tide over the crisis.
While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that promised packages were yet to come but he was giving the Centre time to formulate a collective response to the demands of all states, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac said the Centre should take steps to address the states’ economic crisis.
Issac said the state welcomes the decision to extend the lockdown, but there is no step to ensure the livelihood of ordinary people. He said the Centre should intervene to ensure RBI loan for states. He tweeted: “Without income support compliance will be low… Without additional resources states will be constrained.”
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, while appealing to protesting migrant workers to be patient, said a cabinet ministers’ group was making a plan for resumption of industrial operation from April 20. Senior state government officials told The Indian Express that the state government was expecting Modi to announce guidelines for immediate relaxation of the lockdown in certain areas so that industries and businesses could resume.
With production in 95 per cent of Maharashtra’s registered factories coming to a halt, the state’s fiscal managers had projected a loss of income to the tune of Rs 42,000 crore till April 14. The state suffered a loss of Rs 27,000 crore in potential revenue in March alone, resulting in shortfall in income collections in 2019-20. Maharashtra has sought a Rs 25,000 crore financial assistance package from the Centre. In a communication to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week, the state finance minister also demanded immediate release of Rs 16,651 crore in central grants due to the state.
Andhra Pradesh, hamstrung by bifurcation, has had almost zero revenue since the lockdown began. “From Rs 8,900-Rs 9,000 crore per month, revenues have come down to almost nil. In March 2019, it was about Rs 8,000 crore per month, but this March and April, it would be less than Rs 1,000 crore,’’ Finance Minister B Rajendranath said.
Andhra has requested the Centre to prioritise farming as agriculture contributes 34 per cent to GSDP. In a letter to Modi, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy requested the Centre to initiate steps to enable seamless transportation and marketing of goods. AP has sought opening of national highways for its trucks to move goods.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra had written to the PM and Sitaraman urging them to sanction Rs 25,000 crore for the state and release due funds as the state’s finances are in “dire situation”. A finance department official said, “We used to earn 90 per cent revenue from excise, lottery, stamp revenue and transport sectors. With the lockdown, these four sectors are giving zero revenue. That is almost Rs 1,700 crore per month.”– With Inputs from Vishwas Waghmode, Sreenivas Janyala, Atri Mitra, Kanchan Vasdev and Shaju Philip
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